So, apparently, there’s another anti-war march today in NYC. I’m growing more and more disenchanted with the movement, since marching is the only thing most folks seem to want to do.
Back in 2004, playwright Tony Kushner, of Angels in America fame, said this in an interview. It’s stuck with me, since it was such a pithy and tough illustration of the difficulties we face as progressives:
Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.
In a certain sense, Bush was right when he called the anti-war demonstrations a “focus group.” We went out on the street and told him that we didn’t like the war. But that was all we did: We expressed an opinion. There was no one in Congress to listen to us because we were clear about why they couldn’t listen. Hillary Clinton was too compromised, or Chuck Schumer — and God knows they are. But if people don’t pressure them to do better, we’re lost.
You want to know what gets me, I mean, really gets me? It’s that on September 24, 2005 we turned out say, half a million people on the National Mall. And a lot of those folks were eligible to vote. They may not have been registered to vote, but the vast majority were certainly eligible.
And we did nothing to bring those folks into the process. Nothing. There was no registration effort at that rally, there wasn’t one at the one in Denver, and there wasn’t one at the rally in Colorado Springs, where I live. And I can guarantee you the same thing is the case today.
Look, you want to have agency? You want to end the war? Great. I do too. But the only way it’s going to come to an end is if we vote the folks who supported it out, and vote the right folks in. It’s not happening any other way.
We had the 50 State Canvass today. You know how many folks I saw from the local anti-war groups there?
That’s right, none. As in zero. Why? Why is this the case? Are we that unserious about gaining political power in America? Power can corrupt, this is true; it’s also the only way that we’re going to get anything done in this country we love.
Say what you will about the immigrant rights movement, and as a Latino, I straddle both worlds (even though I’m not an immigrant myself—I’m Puerto Rican). Those folks know how to play the hardball game. They were marching, they were rallying—and they were registering to vote. And on November 7, they’re going to vote. And it’s going to make a difference. Believe me, you’re going to be shocked.
What do you want to wager that the same thing will happen with the anti-war movement? Yeah, I’ll take that wager and raise you, because it won’t. At least, not right now. We’re too busy inveighing against the Man, and whingeing about how all Democrats are sellouts, and, waitaminute, waitaminute, is that a Food Not Bombs burrito? Werrrrd. Hey, whatcha doin’ later?
There are some folks fighting the good fight—my friend Erin, up in Denver; my friend Tim, who’s running field for Marcy Winograd (running against the loathsome Jane Harman, who’s the House version of Holy Joe Lieberman). Heck, I’m jumping in the bullring myself.
But we can’t do it ourselves, not by our lonesome.
So, next time, when you’re planning the next anti-war march, don’t just march. Don’t just protest. Don’t just demonstrate. Make certain you register. And make it a point to not just register, but plan to take over your local Democratic party. The tide won’t turn tomorrow; it won’t turn next week. It may not even turn in our lifetimes. But it will turn, and we’ll have helped in the turning.